Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Big Apple 3

Scenes from the Lower East Side - an eclectic mix of cut-price garment stores, groceries, Jewish delis, trendy bars, chi-chi boutiques and thriving restaurants - that really comes alive after dark / Economy Candy store opposite the Rivington sells all sorts of old and new candy, from gobstoppers and chocolate cigarettes to black jacks and jolly ranchers.

The famous downtown institution The Strand bookstore on Broadway - this is not a bookstore to snuggle into strategically placed sofas and read all morning while sipping lattes / It reminded me of Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London, a decade ago / Precariously high bookshelves and tables stacked with new, old and obscure books at discounted prices / Cluttered, overwhelming, filled with old single men and young single women - full of character but useful only if you know what you're looking for / I picked up some Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, Mary Gaitskill and Jay McInerney and M picked up the new Murakami as it isn't yet out in the UK / But the large Barnes and Noble down the road was better for browsing - there M stumbled upon a few Soho Crime novels and I stumbled upon some Indian and Indian American authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Anita Nair and Bharati Mukherjee.

Paul Amador from the Cohen Amador Gallery had suggested we visit Dashwood Books between Lafayette and Bowery / Though this lovely little basement store is entirely devoted to photography, the stock wasn't as comprehensive as London's The Photographer's Gallery bookshop and Claire de Rouen Books on Charing Cross Road / However, I did stumble upon Dayanita Singh's Privacy featuring black and white portraits of middle and upper class Indian life / I need to explore contemporary Indian photography more.

Our growling stomachs drove us back to the hotel to dump our books / We shared the elevator with Philip Glass again going up to the 20th floor which houses the three-storey penthouse with 360 degree views over Manhattan / And back out down the narrow, anonymous Freeman Alley to Freemans restaurant / Three cheese macaroni for me / Eggs, spinach, bacon and walnuts cooked in a skillet for M / Surrounded by mooseheads and other taxidermy and lots of arty students.

To Chelsea / The Andreas Gursky exhibition we'd been itching to see for months was closed for Memorial Day weekend / But round the corner was the Chelsea Art Museum featuring a Miwa Yanagi photography exhibition / I particularly loved her My Grandmothers series in which she asked models to imagine their lives as grandmothers and then she aged, dressed and posed them living their ideal lives / My favourite "grandmother" was Yuko, who when she retired thought she'd like nothing better than to soak in hot springs and generally relax / This she did for a few years and then got bored, moved to the US, hooked up with a toyboy and travelled cross country with him on the back of a motorcycle.

To Chinatown for dinner where the humidity made us feel like we were walking around Bangkok's Chinatown / Doyer's Vietnamese Restaurant was hidden in a basement down a zigzag alley / Buddhist rolls / beef and shredded papaya salad / fried sole fillet and shredded papaya with sweet chilli sauce / beef with lemongrass / Tsingtao beers / Cheap, generously portioned, robust and delicious.

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